Current Legislation


        

Animal Welfare Bill - Proposed

Draft Animal Welfare Bill 

Proposed Animal Welfare Bill

It is clear that the new Bill will include provisions for the licensing of "animal sanctuaries" and it is also clear that wildlife rehabilitation units will be regarded as animal sanctuaries, possibly in a similar way to dog and cat shelters and rest homes for horses.

No details on the nature of any proposed licensing and inspection schemes have been given and, the public consultation period has now closed,

The bill is possibly the most important legislative move on Captive and Domestic Animals since the Protection of Animals Act in 1911.

The Government have inserted a “duty of care” provision that requires the owner of a domestic or captive animal to be responsible for its welfare.
This duty of care includes:

  • Providing adequate food and water.
  • Providing a suitable environment.
  • Allowing it to be housed with/apart from its own or other species as necessary
  • Allowing it to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • Allowing it to be housed with/apart from its own or other species as necessary
  • Giving appropriate protection from, and diagnosis and treatment of, pain, injury and disease.

Under these draft proposals it will also be illegal for children under the age of 16 to buy or own a pet. It will also be illegal to give animals as prizes. So out goes the fairground goldfish. Those sentenced for acts of cruelty or neglect will have the maximum sentence increased from six months or a £5,000 fine to 51 weeks imprisonment and a £20,000 fine.

Social awareness
Since the Protection of Animals Act was passed in 1911, there have been significant changes in social attitudes towards animals, due in part to our own standards of education and the enormous strides the scientists have made in further understanding animal health, welfare, and behaviour,

Figures from the Pet Food Manufacturers show that we own:

  • 6.1 million dogs.
  • 7.5 million cats.
  • 4.8 million dog owning households.
  • 4.5 million cat owning households

And just under half of all households containing some sort of pet. The above figures show that despite their being more cats than dogs, the dog is the most popular because it is owned in more households. Though for how long?

The rising trend in cat ownership reflects the vast changes in our society including our working and social habits. Urban living shows a trend for working longer; living alone, smaller houses and gardens. commuting further and further to work. This trend clearly favours the cat .

The analysis of the responses to the public consultation have been analysed and are available on the DEFRA website, Click on Logo for full information on this potentially far reaching bill.

My Slant on the Bill

This Bill is intended to be all-encompassing and is aimed at "consolidating and simplifying current legislation on animal welfare". It will cover the welfare of "all farmed, wild or exotic animals in captivity, domestic animals and animals in entertainment and sport".

The Government have inserted a “duty of care” provision that requires the owner of a domestic or captive animal to be responsible for its welfare.

Under these draft proposals it will also be illegal for children under the age of 16 to buy or own a pet. It will also be illegal to give animals as prizes. So out goes the fairground goldfish. Those sentenced for acts of cruelty or neglect will have the maximum sentence increased from six months or a £5,000 fine to 51 weeks imprisonment and a £20,000 fine.

If the bill is ratified It will become an offence not only to cause suffering, but also to keep an animal in such a way that "if its circumstances do not change, it is likely to suffer or not to be properly cared for". This new proposal gives the authorities powers to enter any premises without a warrant this includes all modes of transport ie cars, planes, and ships.

What does concern me is the likes of the RSPCA and similar bodies are cock-a-hoop over this bill and especially the “duty of care” part. I think many are now aware that the RSPCA is not quite the apolitical organisation it once was. Its ideals and focus appears to have shifted from a somewhat right to centre wing to the hard left of the political spectrum.

It seems that the influence of the animal rights campaigners such as L.A.C.S (league against cruel sport) may have permeated and infiltrated this once august body, to the extent that many millions of charitable donations are being sidelined for political lobbying.

I am sure when these donations were initially given or bequeathed it was probably envisaged that in the main it would be used to alleviate animals suffering, not to fund a new head office or pay lobbyists fees etc.

Where this duty of care bill differs from existing legislation, if an animal is kept in such a way as to cause potential future suffering, the animal may not at that time be suffering but it’s circumstances means that it could suffer at some time in the future then it would become an offence under the “duty of care”. Then the police or a body charged with animal welfare could enter the house, field, barn etc without a warrant and remove the animal/s. Seems fair enough but let’s look at that in a bit more depth and get some clarity on what it really means to the man in the street.

The problem initially with the “duty of care” is it makes pet owners effectively guilty of something that has not as yet occurred. And allows the governing body or whoever they elect to govern this bill (this has yet to be announced) to be arbitrarily subjective in what they perceive as guilt and innocence. Perhaps that’s why the RSPCA are crowing? As they obviously think they will be the governing body.And probably will, given that Jackie Ballard ex MP is now Director General of the charity. Why someone who is clearly a political animal was put in charge of this enormous charity is beyond me. She has no experience in running charities and especially animal welfare ones. 

This could also lead to vendettas, the neighbour with a grudge, the animal rights campaigner that knows you may have shares in Huntington Life Sciences, Or the RSPCA that appears to be the political arm for animal rights groups. or just the misguided do-gooder who couldn’t understand animal welfare if he were slapped in the face with it.

Anthropomorphically many see their own and others peoples animals and pets as little humans in cute furry coats. Strangely enough it is this group of people that cause their animals to suffer the most. Ask any Vet if he gets one of these he knows he is fighting an uphill struggle, in areas of post operative care or just common sense basic care and treatment.

They do not understand that their pets require more than just fawning and blubbering over. Unfortunately this act will rarely impact on this group as people will say “She loves his/her animals” and would never harm them. It is distinctly possible that this act is geared to let the Animal Welfare busybodies get their nose deeper into the political and lobbying trough, and to make innocent peoples lives a misery.

I found it interesting that the consultative parties involved in this act …….(they are extremely diverse) Were divided between Urban and Rural opinions. On one hand the Urbanites argue for a ban on all or any of the issues, and the Ruralites argue against it. Therefore the group you would imagine are closer to their animals and the land the “Ruralites” can see the flaws and pitfalls of arbitrary government control, yet the “Urbanites” who arguably know very little about animal husbandry do not see any potential pitfalls. Guess which group the government normally listens to?.

Let’s take tail docking for instance. As a man the “Urbanites” want this vile and horrid practice “they do love that type of language” outlawed in all and every case. Yet since tail docking was banned in Sweden in 1989, a massive increase in tail injuries has occurred. For example within the 50 undocked Pointer litters registered in that year with the Swedish Kennel Club, 38% of dogs suffered tail injury before they were 18 months old and in 1991, the number of individuals with tail injures had increased to 51%. This was from working pointers

The lobbyists that want this practice stopped state that it is "unjustified mutilation”. I have personally seen a number of working breeds and in particular the spaniel community with undocked tails that have suffered all their lives because of painful and debilitating injuries.

Now do not get me wrong, I am intrinsically against docking for cosmetic purposes. I believe that is wrong and should be banned. However there is a strong case for the working breeds. Once damaged this way the tail is extremely difficult and painful to treat and generally the dog in question suffers for the remainder of its life.

Often it means amputation of an adult dogs tail, which as it forms part of the spinal column can be a dangerous and possibly life threatening operation. Now this causes something of a conundrum, under this “duty of care” act. If you dock you could be prosecuted, however if you don’t dock and the animal suffers at a later date, could you also be prosecuted? “tricky eh”

It is a fine line to decide what is perceived as pain and suffering and what is perceived as “potential” pain and suffering in the future.

This act could also impose expensive and difficult legislation on animal sanctuaries, livery yards, and rescue centres. Setting down codes of practice that may be impossible to implement on the small budget these organisations have at their disposal.

These small rescue centres and sanctuaries are run on a shoestring and do exceptional and profit free work rehoming and looking after an enormous cross section of animals, from snakes to donkeys, dogs to parrots. If the rules are unworkable that puts these volunteers at risk of criminal prosecution,

In the final analysis I do feel this proposed act has some merit, but allow it to be hijacked or controlled by the shrill and vociferous animal rights and welfare groups at your peril, for eventually their meddling will result in the animals they are supposed to be protecting suffering more than ever.

 

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This article was written by ©Stan Rawlinson (The Original Doglistener). A professional full time Dog Behaviourist and Obedience Trainer.

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